The yearly list of the most common causes of death in the US is compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The intent is to make the public aware of these causes. The list is created using death certificates which are submitted by physicians, funeral directors, medical examiners, and coroners. They use the International Classification of Disease (ICD) code to assign the cause of death. As a result, causes not listed on the code were not taken into consideration.
Now, however, the evaluation of safety factors has evolved to be able to include medical diagnostic errors, poor judgment, and inadequate skills as additional causes of death.
Medical error is defined as an unintended act (either omission or commission) or one that does not achieve its intended outcome. An error can end the life of someone with a long life expectancy or accelerate an imminent death. A death caused by medical errors is described as an iatrogenic death. That means induced inadvertently by a medical provider.
When medical errors are included in the causes of death, it has been reported to cause a death rate of 1.13%. When applied to all registered US hospital admissions, it means well over 400,000 deaths a year.
These studies of causes of death only considered deaths from inpatient care and not those deaths that are caused by errors in care at home or in nursing homes or in outpatient care such as ambulatory surgery centers. If they were also reported and considered, the annual number of deaths from medical errors would be more than 500,000 today.
In the case of medical malpractice, the Florida Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Act will apply.
If a person dies as a result of a medical error, the legal cause of action that results is called a wrongful death claim. The compensation to be determined for the death is not the value of the decedent’s life. There is no reasonable way to assign a monetary amount for a life lost because of the negligent act of another person.
A wrongful death claim attempts to measure the loss to the survivors of the deceased. This includes mental pain and suffering, anguish, loss of support, etc. In a medical malpractice claim, the only survivors who can qualify to bring a suit are the surviving spouse and any child 25 years of age or younger at the time of death. If the decedent is a child, the parents can bring a claim only if the child is 25 years of age or younger at the time of death.
If the claim cannot be resolved and settled by the parties, then it is up to the jury to decide the compensation for the loss. Usually, the negligent party is responsible for paying the total amount of verdict and judgment. However, if the offending healthcare provider is an employee of the state or any of its agencies, the maximum that can be recovered is, by law, $200,000. This includes attorney’s fees and costs.
The statute of limitations for the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida is two years from the date of death. It must be filed within that time limit, or it will be forever barred.